I don't know if anybody cares anymore, but I'm rested and ready to continue and finish this fic, so if anybody's still reading, here we go again...
January 30, 10:00AM
We sat outside in rickety old patio chairs and drank our coffee. One token visit to the parents every year was the agreement, and although I’d only been here last November, I decided to come early so as to ask some important questions.
‘So,’ Dad said in that overly-parental voice, ‘what have you been doing with yourself lately?’
‘Reading,’ I said, withdrawing The Brothers Caroso from my bag and tossing it onto the table. It thudded loudly against the frosted glass. ‘You won’t believe some of the stuff in here.’
My dad picked it up in one hand and glanced at the cover, then seemed to choke on his coffee. After a few muffled coughs, he swallowed, put the mug down, and held the book in two hands.
‘This looks interesting,’ he croaked.
‘I’ve got some questions for you,’ I replied in a low voice.
‘I’ll bet. Shall I assume, for the record, that you already know everything and are just here to confirm?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I want you to explain everything. Every single detail.’
He nodded slowly, and swallowed again. ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘you’ve earned that. I guess it really begins the week before Gym Heroes began, about five years ago. A few of us veterans were up late in the Pokémon centre, discussing a variety of topics. But one, that was raised by Jasmine, really stuck. She told us there was a new leader competing for the first time that year. We were duly supportive, but generally uninterested. First time, big deal, right? But then she told us that he was only sixteen, and would be travelling unaccompanied. I didn’t see this as a big thing, seeing as how you’d been out without us for five years, though you did have Ash and Brock with you, you were as good as alone. But the others seemed to find this very strange.’
‘But why? Most of them would have encountered Ash at some point, and like you say, he was always travelling with other kids and never any adults. And there are stacks of others of a similar age, too.’
‘This was different, as I soon came to realise when I was filled in about Dante’s history, his parentage. When he arrived at the Indigo Plateau, Dante was deeply distrustful of adults, and was consumed by a desire to defeat them all and win the competition. It made some of us very uneasy, and we decided to assign a guardian to him for the duration of the contest. And since I was the one with teenage children, it fell to me to try and make small talk with him. He rejected me, of course, so I left him alone, and just kept an eye on him from a distance. You can only imagine my surprise to see him, in the distance, next to you, in the stands, watching me, in the arena, battling Koga.’
‘So everybody knows about that except for me?’
‘You’d never been to Stralis. You didn’t even go to Gyms anymore at that point. There was no way for you to know who he was. Anyway, I was most distracted by that, and as a result, lost the battle to Koga. As I walked out of the arena, I formed an idea. Dante needed someone stable in his life, someone to support him. On the other hand, you had fallen for Ash and been clobbered. Then you’d fallen for Drew, and again been clobbered. And if there was one thing I had learned about Dante, it was that he was a gentleman.’
‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘you didn’t…’
‘I didn’t say anything, no. But I thought it was a good match, and tried to conspire to bring you into each others’ orbits more frequently, with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, Dante wasn’t nearly as interested as I had assumed he would be. He was still determined to win the competition, and before long, I heard from another Gym Leader that he had boarded a plane bound for the Sinnoh region, with the intent of visiting the Battle Arena. At least that was his story. We all know now that he was heading for Stark Mountain, planning to capture Heatran.’
He fell silent at that moment as my mother arrived, carrying a tray of sandwiches.
‘So,’ she said, taking a seat, ‘what are you two gossiping about?’
January 30, 2:00PM
I arrived in Agate two days ago, but Eagun had refused to see me until today. He wouldn’t give a reason why, and honestly I didn’t care, as long as he would answer my questions.
‘What can you tell me about the forest shrine?’ I demanded in my most polite but forceful voice. ‘Is it true that Celebi regularly appears?’
‘In a sense, yes,’ Eagun said slowly, talking with his eyes shut. ‘Celebi appears to help Pokémon who have shut the door to their heart.’
‘What about people who have shut the door to their heart?’ I asked.
‘No. Celebi is the guardian of the forest, and of the Pokémon. Humans do not concern it.’
‘Would Celebi travel backwards in time to save the life of a Pokémon?’
Eagun finally opened his eyes.
‘What a monstrous thought! To kill a Pokémon simply to manipulate Celebi!’
‘That’s not what I said at all, old man,’ I growled, starting to lose my temper. ‘The Pokémon is already dead. He died over two years ago. I want Celebi to bring him back to life.’
‘I do not know if Celebi’s powers work in such a way,’ Eagun closed his eyes again. ‘In any case, we cannot access the shrine. It has been blocked by a gang of thugs.’
‘Team Rocket?’ I snarled.
‘No. Team Cipher.’
‘What’s their racket?’
‘They have created Shadow Pokémon. They shut down all centres of love, devotion, affection, friendship, and loyalty, and enhance the disobedient, uncontrollable aspects.’
‘Is this what you were talking about when you mentioned heart doors?’
‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘I believe that Celebi would appear to assist Shadow Pokémon regain their sanity. If only there were someone to collect and unite them.’
‘I guess that’s my cue,’ said a crackly, gravelly voice.
I looked over my shoulder to see who it belonged to. A man about my height stood in the doorway, wearing a flowing blue overcoat and a bizarre contraption on his right arm. He had blonde hair and yellow eyes, and a white stripe that crossed the bridge of his nose. Behind him was a much more normal looking red haired girl. They both walked in without protest from Eagun.
‘It’s wonderful to see you again, Rui!’ Eagun’s wife gushed, tottering forwards and hugging the girl.
‘Hi, gran. This is Wes.’
Wes nodded curtly, and folded his arms across his chest.
‘We’ve snagged some Shadow Pokémon, and we brought them here to purify them at the shrine,’ Rui continued, to Wes’ obvious chagrin. While Rui conversed with her grandparents, I sidled across to Wes and spoke in a whisper.
‘How do you snag Pokémon?’
‘This thing on my arm,’ Wes replied, tapping it with his other hand, ‘converts a Pokeball to a snag ball. I stole it from the Team Snagem headquarters.’
‘Where might one get one of those?’
So that was the way he was going to play, was it? If he wasn’t going to tell me where to get one for myself, I would simply have to take his. That’s just the way it is.
January 30, 3:00PM
We finally got rid of mum and got back to the conversation at hand.
‘So he went after Heatran. Then what?’
‘When I found out what he was doing, I followed him. He was caught up with Team Magma, but together we managed to fight them off. But Dante was still set on capturing Heatran, despite the fact that the Pokémon was now awake and thoroughly enraged. He engaged it with his Cloyster, which Heatran made short work of, and then with Steelix. Before long, Heatran had defeated all of his Pokémon, and was no closer to being captured than it was before he had arrived. So he turned to me, demanding I lend him my Pokémon to finish the battle.’
‘What did you do?’ I asked.
‘I punched him square in the face, knocked him out, and carried him back down the mountain.’
I just stared.
‘It was the only thing to do. He had already put his Pokémon and our lives at risk, I wasn’t going to let him do it to my team as well. In time he came to realise that I had been right, but for a period of months, he would not speak to me, no matter how many calls I placed.’
‘Why were you calling him so often?’ I felt very suspicious, and maybe even a touch jealous.
‘I don’t know exactly. I wanted to help him, wanted to show him that some people can be trusted. Maybe I wanted to be a father figure. Maybe I was using him because I was missing you and Max so much. I really don’t know why, but I was deeply concerned with this troubled young man. But eventually he accepted one of my calls, apologised, and we arranged to meet up at the Gym Heroes contest the following year, which would be 2006.’
‘Which was the year when he introduced himself to me, and…’ I trailed off, with a sudden realisation. ‘You talked him into it, didn’t you?’
Dad was silent for a few moments. ‘He didn’t need much convincing.’
I felt sick. It was bad enough the way that Ash and Drew had treated me, but Dante, I had always felt like he did everything he did out of a bizarre, misguided love. But to find out that he had only done so because of my father?
‘Didn’t you ever wonder,’ Dad said, not looking at me, ‘why he broke down completely when I told him I was disappointed in him?’
‘I can’t believe you would do a thing like that,’ my voice was full of loathing and I didn’t care. I was so mad I just wanted to smash things.
‘It wasn’t all my doing,’ Dad said, getting to his feet. ‘Dante was just as much a part of the conspiracy as I was. You should be having this talk with him, too.’
‘He’ll be here in a week, Dad,’ I said, walking away from the table. ‘Don’t worry, I will be.’
January 30, 4:45PM
The top hackers in the world had worked for years trying to find a loophole in the system that would allow them unlimited freedom, but they had never been able to find it. The law of the code was simple – only six Pokeballs at a time could be out of one account. There were complex mechanisms to keep that a law, to prevent mass Pokémon theft.
Those mechanisms, that law, it all meant nothing now.
I can’t tell you how I did it, because I don’t know for sure that you won’t exploit it the way I have. I can’t tell if you’re trustworthy or not – come to think of it, I can’t even tell if I am anymore.
But I had done it.
In my excitement I forgot the most important rule that Ash had set, his absolutely paramount instruction. I left the house. I needed a drink to celebrate all my hard work, and there was nothing in the fridge. The reason was innocent enough, but did that matter? It didn’t make any difference in the world. Somebody finally told me something, and I didn’t listen. I’ve just walked into the restaurant, and sure enough, Misty and Brock are sitting at one of the tables, staring in my direction. I don’t think the beard and short haircut are going to be enough to get me out of this one. No, I think I’m well and truly screwed now.
Oh well, at least I accomplished something in my life.
Chapter 7 within 7 days.